Saturday, September 18, 2004

Who are we to trust?

Is pursuit of the story so important the media is increasingly willing to throw all credibility out with the baby's bath water? Is the disdain for a sitting president so great many believe the end justifies the means?

In the recent scandal, CBS managing editor Dan Rather finds himself once again embroiled in controversy. In fact, what's increasingly astonishing is how Mr. Rather, and CBS management, have dug in their heals. Instead, shouldn't an investigation into the questionable documents used to shore up a 60 Minutes segment attempting to discredit the President ensue?

"The latest turn in the scandal is a clever ploy and shell game on the part of Rather and it may buy him some time. He's trying to convince the public-and his colleagues in the press-that the real issue isn't whether the documents are fakes but whether they convey the truth about Bush."
--Dan Rather's Last Stand By Cliff Kincaid | September 16, 2004
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However, in earlier years we had the Iran Contra controversy, which Mr. Rather covered quite extensively.

"Beginning in 1986, and for the next eighteen months, the CBS Evening News investigated the Iran-contra debacle. Considering the magnitude of the constitutional questions raised, I believe this has been one of the most underestimated, poorly reported, and misunderstood political scandals in all American history. Our staff sorted through court records, congressional testimony, intelligence files that had been declassified under the Freedom of Information Act, and conducted dozens of interviews around the world."
"Our findings led us to the possibility not only that George Bush knew from the start, and was kept informed, but that the diversion actually ran through the office of the Vice President."
--Dan Rather in The Camera Never Blinks Twice, 1994.
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Could it be that this was the beginning of the apparent resentment for the Bush family we see today? Was Dan Rather caught sleeping at the editorial switch? Or, is there a bias, a deep seeded resentment that perhaps goes back further in the annals of history? Perhaps back to the days when GW's father was vice president?

Dan Rather appeared on CNN's Larry King Live:
CALLER: "I want a comparison of the Iran-contras and this situation [Clinton's scandal]."
KING: "All right, who wants to take that?"
RATHER: "Well, there certainly are comparisons in which you had suspicions of malfeasance in crimes in high office, and an independent counsel, special prosecutor appointed in both cases. There are some similarities, but there are some tremendous differences. Among them in Iran-Contra, the accusation was that the president, or at the very least, someone just below the president, had sent some of America's highest technologically advanced missiles, secretly, to the Ayatollah Khomeini, a sworn enemy of the United States of America, and the question was, why was that done and where did the money go? This is strictly domestic."
KING: "The president [Clinton] then was more forthcoming, wasn't he?"
RATHER: "I am not sure you could say that."
--Dan Rather and Larry King on Larry King Live, January 14, 1999.
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If personal resentment, bias, or any character issue is permitted to surface in a story, or interview, a trusted outcome would be difficult for any reporter to attain. The American people need the facts -- The American people want the facts. For too long mainstream media has fed the U.S. population what 'they' think we should know. Has the 'mainstream' media always operated this way or is this a result of a paradigm shift in the media business? Does the 'mainstream' feel pressure of Fox News and the 'bloggers' to break the story at all costs?

Whether we're sitting in our living rooms in our pajamas, or dressed to work from conventional offices, we have a right to learn the truth. In earlier times we used to be able to trust the information. Those days, I fear, are far behind us as we rapidly exchange information at the speed of the Internet.

The real issue is who are we to trust? I think we all know the answer.

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